Project Name: Shakespeare Navigators
Project Website: http://www.shakespeare-navigators.com/
Project Editors: Dr. Phillip Weller (and me)
Project Affiliation: Represented by Burst Media; independently run
Reviewed by: Rebecca Fil
Review Date: 20 March 2013
Tags or keywords: Shakespeare, search engine, index, themes, motifs,
Review: Shakespeare Navigator’s purpose is pretty self-evident. It is most useful to students writing papers on a certain theme or motif in one or several of Shakespeare’s plays. Its two prominent features are its search engine and its themes and motifs pages; I am working on the latter.
Basic Navigation: On the home page of Shakespeare Navigators, you can search the entire website—which means entire database of plays listed, which doesn’t include the complete works of William Shakespeare—for a keyword or phrase. So, if you wanted to write a paper on the use of rosemary in Shakespeare’s plays, the search engine would show you everywhere the word is listed in the complete text of the play, the summary, the themes and motifs, notes, etc. However, if you click on one of the links provided, you will be taken to the text of the scene, but the word will not be highlighted for you.
Scene Index: Clicking on one of the plays (again, the page is a work in process, so not all of the plays have pages yet) will show you its scene index, search engine, and supplementary features. The scene index provides links to the fully annotated text as well as short, easy to understand summaries of each scene.
Search: If you want to search for a keyword within one play, use the play’s search engine. It will provide links to the text with line numbers, but not links to the supplementary pages. Be sure to look at the Themes and Motifs page beforehand, however, because the work might already be done for you.
Themes and Motifs: Currently, I am working on a page about the theme of patriotism in Julius Caesar. Each theme/motif has its own page; every place where that theme is used is given a short summary and explanation; the summaries are separated by scenes. The quotes are links to the complete text, and this time it will take you to the quote’s line location. Additionally, a link to a more detailed scene summary is provided at the end of each quote.
Supplementary: The supplementary features vary based on the play. Macbeth, Hamlet, and Romeo and Juliet naturally have the most to offer. Supplementary features can include anything from notable quotes, character reviews, a selected bibliography of formal criticism of the play with a review for each, lesson plans, genealogies, maps, and other online resources.
Shakespeare Navigators isn’t an aesthetically pleasing website; it’s utilitarian, but I think as soon as Dr. Weller finishes the pages of the unlisted plays and fleshes out the supplementary features of all the plays, he can work on refining a website that is more pleasing to the eye. And the difference between this website and other DH projects is Shakespeare Navigators is run on Dr. Weller’s own dime.
The closest website that rivals Shakespeare Navigators is OpenSource Shakespeare. It offers the complete works of Shakespeare, sonnets and poems included, visuals, the history of the site and downloadable source code, a concordance of the complete works, and even a mobile app. But OpenSource Shakespeare is committed to the digital humanities label, whereas Shakespeare Navigators is more tool than project. That is, if OpenSource Shakespeare is for the graduate student doing research, Shakespeare Navigators is for the undergraduate writing a term paper, in need of an easy-to-use reference that goes deeper than SparkNotes.
Another comparable website is Mr. William Shakespeare and the Internet. Also run by one person, this website includes pictures and a sidebar menu with all of Shakespeare Navigators’ features in one space. It should make the site easier to navigate, but it ends up as a busy jumble. MWSI also provides links to other Shakespeare websites, play by play, including SparkNotes, with a short review of each site.
Finally, I would like to compare Shakespeare Navigators with SparkNotes’ No Fear Shakespeare. NFS and Shakespeare Navigators have completely different missions, but both are handy online texts. I would like to see Shakespeare Navigators incorporate a scroll-over annotation feature in the text of the play, instead of just a link to a separate page of annotations in one scene. But this would probably require more complex coding that would extend far beyond my abilities.
Similar Projects: SparkNotes No Fear Shakespeare, http://www.shakespeare-online.com/, http://absoluteshakespeare.com/, http://www.opensourceshakespeare.org/
Expertise Required: Basic knowledge of HTML, intermediate-advanced knowledge of Shakespeare. It’s a one man show; Dr. Weller was happy to give me a project that went beyond metadata into literary analysis.
Other Reviews: Not to toot my own horn, but none of these are nearly as comprehensive as mine. (Toot toot.)
I think this review does a good job of hitting the main points of the website, but I think you went into a bit more detail on some aspects of the site in class. You explain a couple of times that the site is a work in progress. It might be a good idea to give a better idea of what is currently functional, and what parts are still waiting to be worked on. However, you do give a good sense of who might find the site useful (high school students) and for what purpose (writing an in-depth research paper).
The review is nicely organized. I like the fact that you break the website down into its parts, then detail how each is useful. It makes it easy to see exactly how the site might be helpful, and what its limitations are. I’m glad that you point out that, for information on specific themes, it is better to look in the “Themes and Motifs” section rather than attempting to search for them through the site’s search engine, though this sounds like something that should probably be integrated into the search system as some point.
My only real critique is that it seems like your discussion of your own role on the website doesn’t fit in with my idea of a formal review. While this kind of information is useful for the class to know, it isn’t necessarily relevant to the review itself. To an outside reader, it also might make the review seem a bit biased, though you do a pretty good job about pointing out what both the successes and the failings of Shakespeare Navigators are as you are working through the review. Keeping in mind the possibility of these reviews being used later on the broader DH page, it might be a good idea to edit this so that there is less focus on your personal role in the project, especially since there will be a final review of your contribution at the end of the semester.